Acknowledging Employees’ Efforts: So Easy, So Important
Melissa’s new job seemed to be just what she’d been looking for. But Melissa’s manager, Connie, turned out to be verbally abusive, constantly criticizing Melissa and finding fault with her work. Not a day went by without criticism and disapproval.
After six months, Melissa had had enough of Connie’s relentless negativity and submitted her resignation. Connie reacted with surprise, suddenly transforming into a caring person and stating that Melissa was not just a competent employee, but the most talented of everyone who had held this position. Connie tried to cajole Melissa into staying, but it was too late. Melissa found a job where she’d be appreciated for her efforts.
It may be that Connie believed that Melissa wouldn’t do her job without being beaten up. This approach is reminiscent of Theory X, popular in the ’60s, which says that employees dislike their work, need constant direction, and have to be controlled and micromanaged. Theory Y, by contrast, applies to a style of management in which employees are self-motivated, need little oversight, and view their work as challenging and fulfilling.
But Connie may have been less a proponent of Theory X than simply clueless about how to treat employees. She seemed unaware that acknowledgement of employees’ efforts can make a huge difference in how they feel about their work.
In fact, acknowledgement is one of the most important things a manager can do. Research suggests that the vast majority of people are more motivated by being told what they’re doing right than what they’re doing wrong. Acknowledgement doesn’t need to be formal, such as at a recognition event; many people prefer informal comments offered periodically. It’s the old pat on the back that tells people their work is valued.
Whether you call it acknowledgement, praise, recognition, or appreciation, positive feedback works best when given as soon as possible after the behavior that justified it and when it’s specific about the behavior being acknowledged.
Note that it’s not just extraordinary efforts that deserve to be acknowledged. Recognition of small, everyday efforts and routine accomplishments can make a difference in how employees feel about their work. All it takes is a simple “Thanks. I know that was a tricky problem” or “Good job. I appreciate that you got it done on time.”
Even though Melissa is working harder than ever now, she loves her new job and is thrilled to have a manager who notices and acknowledges her efforts.